Spring Valley Pair Face Charges of Abusing Horses

Times Staff Writer

The San Diego Humane Society will ask that charges of failure to properly care for animals be filed against two Spring Valley residents who allegedly kept at least five horses in manure-filled stalls that had not been cleaned in years, officials said Thursday.

Verda Mae Turnbull and her son, James (Rocky) Johnson, could each face up to 5 years in jail and $5,000 in fines if convicted of five misdemeanor counts of “permitting animals to go without care,” said Humane Society spokesman Larry Boersma.

Boersma said he expects the San Diego County district attorney’s office to file charges after the society has detailed its findings. Turnbull and Johnson may face other charges related to cruelty, neglect and abuse of animals, he said.

Humane Society authorities were tipped off to the alleged neglect in October by a resident who lived near Turnbull and Johnson in county territory just east of Rancho San Diego. The pair kept 10 horses and two burros in a white barn in the 3100 block of Florence Terrace “in extremely unsanitary conditions--so much so that it was causing pain and suffering,” Boersma said.


Boersma said Humane Society staff members requested several times that the boarding conditions be improved, but, after nothing was done, they obtained a search warrant and seized five horses believed to be suffering the most.

“Our estimate is that some of the stalls had not been cleaned out in a couple of years. The fecal matter was as deep as 42 inches,” Boersma said. “We couldn’t even open some of the stalls, the gate had to be dug out.”

The five horses seized were being treated for infected hoofs, being given tetanus shots and de-wormed, Boersma said.

“Frankly, a couple horses we’re not sure are going to make it,” he said. “Some may have to be put to sleep. They are in a good deal of pain. One of our officers likened it to pulling out a toenail and trying to stand on it.”

Turnbull and Johnson told authorities they were breeding stock.